Amin Taha to sell Clerkenwell Close base to fund new stone scheme

The two-storey studio for his 22-strong practice Groupwork has been put on the market for £3.2 million while the architect’s own apartment – one of eight flats in the block – is being sold off-market by The Bespoke Agent.

The seven-storey block near Farringdon, shortlisted for the 2021 Stirling Prize, was famously the subject of a long-running planning dispute with Islington Council, which wanted to bulldoze the building.

In early 2018 the local authority hit Taha with an enforcement notice because, according to its planners, the building was different from the designs that had been given consent in 2013.

But Taha appealed the notice and in a decision later that summer, a planning inspector agreed to quash the demolition order describing 15 Clerkenwell Close as a ‘thoughtful building’.

The architect wants to use the money from the sales to buy the unnamed plot for a new stone and timber project.

Speaking to the AJ, Taha said: ‘15 Clerkenwell Close dropped its CO2 emissions by 92 per cent where we substituted steel and concrete with stone. [It became] carbon negative where we replaced aluminium partitions, plasterboard and paint with timber studs and veneered ply and MDF.’

He added: ‘In outline, the strategy for the new site is to use as little concrete and steel as possible, with timber and stone used across the superstructure and fit-out.

‘[The proposal would] include a stone basement retaining wall, basement floor slab and stone piles. Together these enable a carbon-negative outcome in material and construction.’

Taha said the projected would be super insulated to ‘drop energy requirements and exceed renewables so we’re theoretically off the power grid’.

Clerkenwell Close by Groupwork Amin Taha 1

Photos by Tim Soar

In a video for estate agent Compton, Taha describes the 15 Clerkenwell Close’s construction as ‘a bit like Stonehenge – one block after the other’.

It was the building’s stone exterior – a fossil-studded limestone exoskeleton – that was the primary cause of the row with Islington Council.

In his 2019 decision, planning inspector PN Jarratt agreed there was a ‘difference’ between the parties on what was either submitted or approved, but he concluded that in ‘general terms’, the building was not harmful to the conservation area.

He added: ‘This is an unsatisfactory situation for both parties and it is not in the public interest if members of the public cannot establish what has been approved when examining planning records.

‘Nevertheless, the principle of development is not in dispute and the building accords with the generality of what had previously been approved.’

The enforcement notice was one of a series issued by the council. The first was delivered in June of that year when a neighbour complained that the building appeared to be in ‘concrete’ not brick as per the initial 2013 submission. That notice was later withdrawn.

In mid-2017, a second notice called for the building to be flattened and rebuilt in brick. But this was also withdrawn after Taha’s solicitors sent the council a letter asking to see the report backing this notice.

In 2021 the building made it onto the RIBA Stirling Prize shortlist, with the jury describing it as an ‘astonishing architectural triumph’. However, it lost out to Grafton Architects’s Kingston University Town House.

Taha said he would take the office off the market if the plot he wants to buy was sold to someone else. He told the AJ: ‘We wouldn’t move unless we found the same sort of site again. [That] was the condition of selling our last office.’

Clerkenwell Close by Groupwork Amin Taha 3

The office space at 15 Clerkenwell Close which is on the market (Photos by Jim Stephenson)